Highlighting the importance of health visiting and school nursing, Unite delegate and health visitor Joyce Still today (September 11) spoke in support of motion 60 on investment in the future.
She said that while the role of midwives in promoting health in pregnant women deserves acknowledgement, she told conference the “key role of health visitors and school nurses in the promoting and supporting of health throughout a child and family’s life” must not be forgotten.
Still explained the challenges that health visitors and school nurses face as services are cut after their provision was transferred in 2015 from the NHS to local authorities’ public health budgets, which are not ring fenced.
“Health Visitors see all new mothers following the birth of their baby usually around ten days when often breast feeding is not quite established,” she said. “[But] now with the increasing workload they are not able to offer the support to the breastfeeding mother that they would like and this task often falls to volunteers.
“School nurses are often unable to offer support to young people to ensure they are aware of the life-long dangers related to smoking due to their increasing workloads,” Still added.
She highlighted how many local authorities have tendered out community nursing services to private companies such as Virgin Healthcare and Solutions for Health.
“Worryingly, these companies have very little understanding of public health and the implications for staff in working with vulnerable families,” Still explained.
“Let’s not forget that a private company’s main interest is in making profits for their shareholders.”
Continued investment in public health is important, she argued, but just as important is ensuring that “public health initiatives are provided by staff who are working for employers whose priority is public health, such as the NHS, and have the best interest of the public at heart.”
Urging congress to support the motion, she reminded delegates that “investment in public health is not just important to address our health needs now, but it is an investment in the health needs of future generations.”
The motion was passed.